The tomahawk is one of the most versatile edged tools in modern history. It is a trademark of American heritage from the Native American tribes who introduced this weapon made from wood and stone, to the European settlers who adapted the design with forged metal blades. The tomahawk has definitely made a recent comeback, with virtually every blade-making company offering their own modern twists on this classic, not to mention its new-found popularity within martial arts circles. The integration of the tomahawk into the blade arts has found a demand for lighter, smaller hawks that can be maneuvered quickly and efficiently while taking advantage of the unique, close-quarter capabilities of the tomahawk’s design.
The TOPS Micro Hawk was designed by Shawn Owens of Tribal Blade Fighting Arts. Shawn is a bush pilot, Filipino Martial Arts practitioner, and edged weapons instructor. I had the chance to speak with Shawn and spent some time picking his brain to find out exactly what thought process went into his design. I can easily pick up a blade and determine how I would use it, but being a blade designer myself, I know the frustrations of having someone critique a design without having a clue as to the purpose behind it. For that reason, I wanted to approach the Micro Hawk from Shawn’s own perspective.
The concept behind the Micro Hawk was to create a functional hawk that was small enough to be carried and concealed like a compact fixed blade knife, while offering the functionality of a tomahawk, a knife, and a karambit all in one. At first glance, it might appear to be nothing more than a novelty—a miniaturized tomahawk without much functionality, but in reality the Micro Hawk is an effective fighting and survival tool. The Micro Hawk is made from 5/16” thick 1095 high carbon steel and comes in just a hair under seven inches long (6.9” to be exact). The black traction coating makes it look as rugged as it feels, but at only 11.2 ounces this hawk won’t weigh you down. The primary cutting edged is 1.95” long, but this hawk has more than one edge. The top of the head forms a secondary edge measuring 3.94” long and runs all the way to the point of the spike. The edge is very sharp all the way around, and unlike a typical tomahawk which has a chopping-quality edge, this hawk has an edge suitable for cutting, slicing, and even skinning.
The handle of the Micro Hawk is skeletonized to reduce weight and comes wrapped with desert camo 550 cord. The cord wrap not only provides a secure handle texture, but also serves as a survival accessory should the need for cordage arise. The cord is tied off at the front bottom portion to give an extra little grip with the knot. About seven inches of additional cord extends past the knot to form a lanyard. I ended up re-tying the cord wrap as I found the lanyard kept getting in the way during chopping. I even chopped a small section of the cord off when the lanyard landed between the blade and a piece of mesquite.
The minimalist Kydex sheath has an injection molded, rotating nylon belt clip. The belt clip is narrow enough to fit inside MOLLE webbing, making it quite versatile when it comes to mounting options. The hawk fits into the sheath from the bottom and locks into position due to its custom fit. A downward pull with a slight rock toward the spike will break the hawk free from the sheath. This is a great setup for quick deployment.
Shawn sent me one of his aluminum trainers to play around with so I could get some hands-on training with Micro Hawk and test out some of my combat theories on some live opponents. Using my students as guinea pigs, I found many practical fighting applications with the Micro Hawk. Holding the hawk with a low grip closer to the bottom, I was able to apply most of the techniques and tactics I teach in my Advanced Tomahawk Application Concepts (ATAC) system. The compact size of the Micro Hawk offered the advantages of a traditional tomahawk with the additional advantage of being lighter and easier to maneuver. Holding the hawk with high grip near the head offered the ability to perform quick cutting motions, leaving the handle for hooking and striking.
Of course, your greatest asset is almost always your greatest liability. This statement holds true with the Micro Hawk. The compact size is its greatest asset, making it concealable, light, and maneuverable. With the smaller size, though, comes a loss of reach, power, and some of the combative function of the handle (i.e. chokes, locks, and two-handed striking). All in all, I think the trade off is worth it. After all, what good is a tomahawk if you can’t carry it anyway?
You might be wondering if a hawk this size has any real survival capabilities. I mean, it’s only seven inches long, so how do you gain any leverage to chop down a small tree or split wood? Well, Shawn thought of that when he integrated the finger ring into his hawk design. By placing your middle finger through the hole and securing a grip with your index and ring fingers, you are able to extend your grip and create the effect of a longer handle. Using this grip, you can chop quite efficiently. Of course, a man’s gotta eat, so once you manage to hunt down some food, you can invert the Micro Hawk and use the top edge in the fashion of an Ulu knife to skin your prey. How’s that for function?
The Micro Hawk is new to the TOPS lineup for 2016. It can be purchased from TOPS Knives for $180.00, but if you head over there now, you can snag one for $144.00. As always, be sure to follow TOPS on their social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) so you can stay up to speed on their latest and greatest edged tools. The Micro Hawk Trainer will be available at www.safehomegear.com and can be purchased as a single item or as a package deal with the TOPS Micro Hawk.
Photo Credits: Chad McBroom